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CMHC Brownie Award Program


December 4, 2003
by Lydia Dumyn

Recognizing leadership, imagination and environmental sustainability in redeveloping brownfields across Canada, the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI), in conjunction with major industry and professional groups, offered awards in 6 categories at its annual Brownfields Conference in October.

The CUI Brownie Awards Program, financed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, distinguishes and commends excellence in sustainability of community building through the incorporation of public and private partnerships and community participation.

CUI looks at policy and program development of a project, its innovation, and its applicability to other jurisdictions. "We are great friends with an organization called Aboutremediation.com and this is a network of specialist companies, from lawyers, to insurance, to technical specialists," Glen Miller, vice-president of education and research at CUI, said. "We’re about to announce in the new year, between Aboutremediation.com and the Canadian Urban Institute, the establishment of the Canadian Brownfield Network, which is going to give people the opportunity of communicate with each other and find out what’s going on."

One of the winners this year, under the capital financing and risk management, was the city of Cambridge, which came up with a financial program to give a little towards development of the area, which offered a dollar amount per unit. "It’s very much an emerging field," Miller said.

"There are a few banks that have shown interest. CIBC in the past has actually had a bit of a profile, but their interest typically is, ‘Do all the groundwork and come to us when you have a project that’s viable.’ In the cycle, because brownfield development is likely to take a little bit longer and have a little bit more uncertainty, this is the very risky part, so the access to financing can be crucial, which is why the Cambridge program worked rather well."

"A number of financial institutions in Quebec have actually been more willing to get involved in the early stages. Part of that may be related to the fact that the Quebec Government has a $100 million program called Revi-sols, which has been very successful, and resulted in 89 projects in Montreal, 19 in Quebec City, an 29 in other cities in four years."

"In the States, there’s a fund that is specifically dedicated to developing brownfield projects called Cherokee, and they provided funds for a very big project here in Toronto the redevelopment of the Stelco site by REON."

Other categories include technological solutions, individual achievement, and last but not least, the best overall project.

"All of the projects even the ones that didn’t receive an award, are of a very high standard," Miller said. "It’s truly an [exciting] experience when you see this level of expertise in small and large communities across professions. We are very pleased to play a role in moving this forward."

This year marked the fourth annual conference, and the third awards ceremony. What began as a gathering of just a few groups grew into an institution with the 2002 introduction of eight organizations of architects, landscape architects, and planners.

"What we’re very excited about is that the award really seems to be gathering momentum across the country," Miller said.

Presenting the 2003 CUI Brownie Award in the Best Overall Project categoryThe Red River College Princess Street Campus by Corbett Cibinel Architects.

Downtown Winnipeg’s new college campus was designed with a dedication to "green" architecture, historic renovation and revival, and the newest technology.

The project has a combination of all of the facets that CUI was looking for, Miller said, which included high quality urban design and public space, innovative resolution of contamination issues, and the address of broader economic regeneration and sustainability.

"There was the struggle of overcoming the inertia of an underused site in a critical location, there was the collaboration among all of the different private and public stakeholders, and there was the superb re-use of heritage elements and an overall attention to urban design," Miller said.

The college is one of five buildings on the block in Winnipeg’s historical Exchange District, which were the last remaining buildings when Winnipeg became a city in 1877, Corbett explained.

"They had a historical significance to Winnipeg, and in fact, the faade of the buildings were historically designated. So, we deconstructed the five buildings and stored the material," Corbett said. "We brought a lot of the materials back into the building when we reconstructed the new part."

The result is a striking mixture of old brick, ceramic tiles, lights and woodwork.

But Corbett Cibinel’s focus on conservation reaches far beyond the building’s shell. The maximized glazing and window area maximizes daylight, minimizing the need for artificial light, and through collaboration with Winnipeg Transit, public transportation routes have been incorporated into the design to encourage students and staff to leave their cars at home.

"[The Brownie Award] is a recognition not only to Corbett Cibinel Architects, but it’s also a recognition to the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg, and Red River College that all the parties involved made the right decision," Corbett said.

The third and final phase of construction, costing cost $36 million, was set for December 2003.



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